Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: God of Carnage

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2012 at 9:45 AM

Whatever happened to yuppies?

Those affluent, self-absorbed professionals seemed to be everywhere in the 1980s. Then sometime in the 1990s, they became a joke. And then they just seemed to disappear, at least from the media's attention if not the country.

Well, I found them. They inhabit a brilliantly funny play titled God of Carnage, which earlier this month received its Colorado premiere in a production by the venerable Star Bar Players.

Written by French playwright Yasmina Reza and translated into English by Christopher Hampton, God of Carnage transferred from London to Broadway in 2009 and promptly scooped up three Tony Awards, including Best Play. It's the type of play that Star Bar does very well: a smart, dark-edged comedy that says a lot more than it seems. And while it makes an easy target of the aforementioned yuppies, the truths it tells apply to us all.

I have no sense of humor and no intention of getting one.

The story takes place in the tastefully decorated Brooklyn apartment of Veronica and Michael. They've agreed to meet with another couple, Annette and Alan, after their elementary-age boys get into a fight.

This kind of thing that happens every day in playgrounds and schoolyards across the country. But this fight has permanent repercussions, for Henry — as Veronica loves to remind everyone — is disfigured, having lost two of his incisors.

Yuppies to the core, the four adults are certain they can rise above the childish attitudes and heated emotions that drive lesser parents. There will be no lawsuit, and all agree that some sort of apology is warranted.

But the disagreements start almost immediately. As they draft a description of the incident, Veronica insists that little Benjamin was "armed" with a stick, while Alan — a corporate lawyer who constantly interrupts the discussion to talk on his Bluetooth — prefers the word "furnished." That way there's no implication of malicious intent.

And things really go downhill after Annette vomits on Veronica's precious art books, and Michael tries to fix the situation by blow-drying every puke-stained page.

Puking seems to have perked you up.

Alan is played by Dylan Mosley, an actor so effortlessly natural you'll swear he's just playing himself again and again. But when you think back over the characters he's played — from Nick in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to Pozzo in Waiting for Godot — you realize no two are alike. Here he takes on an added challenge, making Alan deliciously smarmy without letting him sink into caricature.

Miriam Roth Ballard is Annette, the only one who really tries to play fair but who finds herself caught in the middle as her workaholic husband grows increasingly distant and uncaring as the night wears on. Reza gives Annette less of a backstory than the other three, but Ballard fills out the character nicely with an overly righteous indignation and a scary Mama Grizzly rage.

Kevin McGuire strives to embody the contradictions in Michael, a self-made wholesaler who poses as a peace-loving liberal but longs to bust out in some good old-fashioned chest-thumping virility. The night I saw the show, however, McGuire was slow on his cues and sometimes seemed to be somewhere else. But when he was there, he was bitingly funny, with some of the best lines in the play.

Elizabeth Kahn's Veronica runs the gamut from fist-pounding violence to sobbing incoherence, and is absolutely believable every stop along the way. She may be a wacko, but she's a wacko we feel for. My only gripe here is that sometimes Kahn's voice gets lost in THEATREdART's cavernous space. A little more projection would go a long way.

The writing can be a little overwrought at times — Alan is prone to saying things like: "I believe in the god of carnage. The god whose rule's been unchallenged since time immemorial." — but the 90-minute play moves briskly and Alysabeth Clements-Mosley's confident direction never lets the tension flag.

Yes, we laugh at the characters' hypocrisy and petty behavior. But deep down, we know that we wouldn't behave any better. Not where our children are involved.

Oh, man. Does that mean we're all yuppies?

God of Carnage
Through Sept. 29, Thursday through Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday matinee 4 p.m. Star Bar Players at THEATREdART, 128 N. Nevada Ave. Tickets, $15, $12 for senior/military/veteran, $6 for students. Sunday: Pay what you can. Call Star Bar Players at 357-5228 or visit starbarplayers.org for more info.

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